Anisakis spp. have a complex life cycle which passes through a number of hosts through the course of its life. Eggs hatch in sea water and larvae are eaten by crustaceans, usually Euphausids. The infected crustacean is subsequently eaten by a fish or squid and the nematode burrows into the wall of the gut and encysts in a protective coat, usually on the outside of the visceral organs, but occasionally in the muscle or beneath the skin. The life cycle is completed when an infected fish is eaten by a marine mammal, such as a whale ,seal, or dolphin. The nematode excysts in the intestine, feeds, grows, mates and releases eggs into the sea water in the host's feces. As the gut of a marine mammal is functionally very similar to that of a human, Anisakis spp. are able to infect humans who eat raw or undercooked fish.
The known diversity of the genus has increased greatly over the past 20 years, with the advent of modern genetic techniques in species identification. It has been discovered that each final host species is home to its own biochemically and genetically identifiable sibling species of Anisakis spp., which is reproductively isolated. This finding has allowed the proportion of different sibling species in a fish to be used as an indicator of population identity in fish stocks.
Anisakids share the common features of all nematodes; the vermiform body plan, round in cross section and a lack of segmentation. The body cavity is reduced to a narrow pseudocoel. The mouth located anteriorly, and surrounded by projections used in feeding and sensation, with the anus slightly offset from the posterior. The Squamous epithelium secretes a layered cuticle that protects the body from digestive juices.
As with all parasites with a complex life cycle involving a number of hosts, details of the morphology vary depending on the host and stage of life cycle which it is in. In the stage which infects fish, Anisakis are found in a distinctive watch-spring coil shape. They are roughly 2 cm long when uncoiled. When in the final host, Anisakids are longer, thicker and more sturdy, to deal with the hazardous environment of a mammalian gut.
Anisakiasis is the disease caused by infection with Anisakis worms. It is frequently reported in areas of the world where fish is consumed raw, lightly pickled or salted. The areas of highest prevalence are Scandinavia (from cod livers), Japan (after eating sushi and sashimi), the Netherlands (by eating infected fermented herrings (Maatjes)), and along the Pacific coast of South America (from eating ceviche). Heating to 60 °C, or freezing to below −20 °C is an effective method of killing Anisakis.
Within hours after ingestion of infective larvae, violent abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting may occur. Occasionally the larvae are coughed up. If the larvae pass into the bowel, a severe eosinophilic granulomatous response may also occur 1 to 2 weeks following infection, causing symptoms mimicking Crohn's disease.
Diagnosis can be made by gastroscopic examination during which the 2 cm larvae are visualized and removed, or by histopathologic examination of tissue removed at biopsy or during surgery.
Humans are thought to be more at risk of Anisakiasis from eating wild fish than farmed fish.
Many countries require all types of fish with potential risk intended for raw consumption to be previously frozen to kill parasites.
People who are sensitized to nematodes can have severe anaphylactic reactions after eating fish which have been infected with Anisakis spp. This is often confused with a fish or shellfish allergy, as the allergenic components of Anisakids are difficult to test for and often produce a reaction in tests for other allergens.
Global Assessment of Molecularly Identified Anisakis Dujardin, 1845 (Nematoda: Anisakidae) in Their Teleost Intermediate Hosts
Jun 01, 2013; Abstract: Here, we present the ITS ribosomal DNA (rDNA) sequence data on 330 larvae of nematodes of the genus Anisakis...
In vivo larvicidal activity of monoterpenic derivatives from aromatic plants against [L.sub.3] larvae of Anisakis simplex s.l.
Jul 01, 2006; Abstract In view of the lack of an effective pharmacological treatment against human anisakiosis, a disease produced by [L.sub.3]...